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Open data for the University?

It’s been an ambition of mine, since I started in Applications Division three years ago, to create a set of reusable interfaces onto the university’s core data sets, so that any university systems could have a consistent set of information about our courses, our people, our buildings, and so forth.  We’ve already taken some steps towards this goal.  Now I’m seeking requirements from learning technologists across the university as to what information they might need to provision and integrate their e-learning systems.

This is happening under the benevolent governance of the Distance Education Initiative (DEI).  The idea is that a course organiser can select a range of tools for her online teaching course, from a range of those available, with advice from their friendly learning technologist.  The DEI “data hub” will then provision those services with accounts for the people involved in the course, including students and tutors.  If people join or leave the course, their accounts will be updated automatically.

In addition, the various learning systems may share information back to central systems.  For example, the students’ marks could be uploaded to a central store, where students can see all their marks across all their courses.  Or if a student is struggling on a particular course, this could be fed back to their personal tutor, who could then decide whether they need to take any action.

To this end, I have arranged some meetings over the next couple of weeks, inviting learning technologists and service owners to tell us whether and how this sort of information could help them .  I will write up the results as a business requirements document, which will form the basis of a system design.  The actual implementation will probably proceed in phases, developing and deploying one interface at a time.  If all goes to plan, there should be a core system available this time next year, if not before.


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